Brewing Loose Leaf Tea at Home

The many delicious teas of the world come both in individual bags or sachets and in loose leaf form. Once you are comfortable making loose leaf tea at home, there are that many more teas for you to taste. While most teas come with clear instructions, some don’t, like the bulk teas you’ll find at Your DeKalb Farmers Market. That’s no reason to miss out on a great tea. Here’s Angela’s four-step method to brewing tea at home.

Ultimately you’ll develop your own method and “tea tools,” but in the meantime, feel free to copy my style! You will need:  

  1. Something in which to boil your water – kettle, pot, electric kettle
  2. Something in which to steep your tea – glass or metal, make sure it pours without dripping
  3. A teaspoon to measure your tea
  4. Loose leaf tea (surprise!)
  5. Hand strainer or tea infuser (see Infusion Steeping Option)
  6. Something in which to serve your hot tea – teapot, non-plastic pitcher or just mugs or cups if you’re planning on using it all on the first pourloose leaf tea brewing equipment

Step One: Boil Your Water
Obviously. There are actually a couple of details worth knowing about your water:

  1. Temperature Matters. All teas are not steeped in boiling (212 degree) water and there are simple tricks you can use to get around relying on a digital, temperature-controlled kettle. More about this in a following post.
  2. Oxygen-Rich Water Brews the Best Tea. Water that has been left boiling too long or reboiled will have a lower oxygen content. Also, several teahouse owners have emphasized the importance of using filtered water.Boiling Water in Electric Kettle

Step Two:  Measure Your Tea
I use a general guideline of one teaspoon per (8 oz.) cup of water, plus one teaspoon for the pot. So when I boil a 7-cup pot of tea, I measure out 8 teaspoons into my bowl.Measuring Loose Leaf Tea

Step Three:  Time Your Steep and Prep Your Tea Service
When the water is at the right temperature, pour it over your tea leaves into the bowl you’ve readied. You can set a timer or if you trust your short-term memory, glance at the clock. Note that different teas have different steep times (more on this in a following post).2016-02 Brew Loose Leaf TeaIMG_6292

This is when I typically lay out the tea service, which is what we call the set of dishes you will use to serve tea. For guests, you may line a tray with a tea towel or decorative linen or placemat, then add your tea cups, saucers and spoons, fill a creamer with milk, half-n-half or cream by your preference and check that your sugar bowl has been replenished, possibly with sugar cubes, cane sugar, palm sugar or turbinado.

When it’s just me, I skip the full service and simply choose a favorite pottery mug or tea cup and saucer. You might choose to steep more than you know you’ll drink, pour yourself a large mug and filter the rest into a glass pitcher to refrigerate for future ready-to-go iced tea. Teapot, pitcher or cup at the ready

Step Four:  Strain Your Tea and Enjoy!
Pour your tea through a hand strainer either directly into tea cups and mugs, or into a pot or pitcher. Because this whole process takes less than 10 minutes and freshly brewed tea is tastiest, it’s okay to wait until guests have arrived before you put the kettle on for tea.

Infusion Steeping Option
I don’t usually choose to do this, because I find my infuser harder to clean and it can also limit space for the tea leaves as they are trying to open. Its benefit though is that you can simply pull an infuser out of the brewed tea, saving yourself the possibly messy step of pouring tea through a strainer. If you prefer this method, while your water comes to temperature, measure your tea leaves into an infuser and place the infuser inside your tea pot, pitcher or bowl, where you will steep your tea. Have a plate or bowl at the ready to catch your infuser as it emerges.Tea Infusion Method
Tea Savvy Tips:  

  1. Double Brew Your Leaves. While the second steep will have less caffeine (which may be desirable), don’t let those tea leaves go to waste. Simply empty the contents of your strainer back into your bowl and boil up another batch of water. If you have no need for so much tea at the time, strain it into a glass pitcher and refrigerate for iced tea for later.
  2. Compost Used Tea Leaves. They are a nitrogen-rich source of organic material for your garden. Simply add used leaves directly to your compost pile or bin.